Heidi McKenzie officially wins the American Spirit Award for Innovation, an award I just made up that has nothing to do with the popular brand of cigarettes.
It DOES have to do with the fact McKenzie created a line of jeans for people confined to wheelchairs.
After a car accident in 2007, the then-21-year-old became a T4 paraplegic (which means she doesn't have feeling from the chest down).
Five years later, while competing in (and, ahem, winning) the Ms. Wheelchair Kentucky 2012 pageant, the designer noticed she was not alone in her struggle to find comfortable, stylish clothing that accommodated men and women living in seated positions.
Rather than wait for someone else to create clothes for her, McKenzie fashioned Alter UR Ego.
The collection of jeans features an elastic waistband, deep front pockets, a catheter opening and a high-waisted rise in the back.
At $80 a pop, Alter UR Ego jeans function as an affordable and superior pant for men and women with alternate needs.
Style and design come relatively naturally to McKenzie, who was planning for a career in fashion before her accident.
In an interview with Mashable, McKenzie explained,
I originally wanted to have a retail store, but once I figured I could make a difference firsthand with being in a wheelchair and design adaptable clothing, I was determined to do it. Most adaptable clothing is targeted towards the elderly, and I wanted something fashionable that everyone would be able to express their alter ego through their fashion.
McKenzie and her business partner, Kristin Alexandra Tidwell, launched a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to produce the product.
With just eight days left, they are only about $8,000 away from meeting their goal.
She doesn't want to stop after AUE jeans, either. McKenzie says she hopes to develop an even broader line of clothing for those in need of fashion and comfort.